Johnny Earles is back in the kitchen in the same Grayton Beach location as his former legendary Criolla’s Restaurant.



Earles closed Criolla's in 2008 after 22 years to pursue other interests. But he recently felt the tug of his first love calling out to him.



On May 9, Earles and wife Debbie opened the doors to their new venture: Grayton Bar & Grill (GBG).



Before closing Criolla's, Earles claimed the title of longest continuously open restaurant, and won many awards for the outstanding cuisine.



Those who remember Criolla's will find some of the original menu items, along with a lot of new dishes.



One of the popular returning items is a whole grilled red snapper a la Criolla.



Earles calls GBG's cuisine "modern deep-South cookin' " or fine casual.



The refurbished interior bears little resemblance to the old Criolla's. This time, instead of Caribbean, the Earles have sought to play up nostalgia and memories of old Grayton Beach, offering a modern twist on the old familiar.



The concept for GBG is derived from the memories of the Earles and those of their family, friends, and long-time residents and vacationers at Grayton. The Earles seek to bring back such memories with its food, beverages, and old Grayton style decor.



Through the restaurant's design and surfboard logo, the family-friendly menu and overall casual atmosphere, the Earles recall at GBG a beach life that was simple, familial and fun.



On entering, guests will feel like it’s a walk down memory lane when they see the old-fashioned-looking, mercury-dipped filament light bulbs above the bar, the Gulf blue mason jar water glasses and butcher paper-covered tables and napkins. And T-shirt clad servers deliver your meal.



The band room houses a stage that is ready for a variety of musical genres, which will be offered three or four nights a week.



The band room also features a 16-foot-long alligator and an old sign from Earles' first restaurant, the Paradise Cafe.



The pallet room with wooden pallets gives the feel of an old beach cottage.



There are plans to hang a collage of old photos of Grayton Beach.



"Everything here has a story to tell," said Earles. "Debbie grew up in Grayton and a lot of this was her vision. Our vision is to bring back memories of old Grayton."



Family groups are easily accommodated in one of four dining areas or with friends at the bar, offering something for everyone on the menu. The bar of deadhead cypress is from Bruce in rural northern Walton County.



At the bar, a light-hearted attitude was taken in the creation of signature cocktails. Two of the most popular are Pom Pom’s Butt Fan and the Clooney Rita.



There is a list of 120 wines, eight different beers on tap, and 10 different bottled beers.



On the menu you will find Johnny’s barbecue shrimp with soufflé cornbread (sometimes made with blue cornmeal) or heritage pork belly sliders with cane chile jam as appetizers; heirloom greens and tomatoes with basil buttermilk dressing as one of the salads (with the option of topping it with lemon grilled grouper or butter braised chicken breast); and pan-fried triggerfish with black-eyed pea risotto, or spinalis maximus (prime ribeye cap) with ramps as main course offerings, as well as a variety of sides.



Appetizers range from $10 to $15.



Entrees prices range from $21 to $28.



Cocktails are $7 to $9.



Wines by the glass are $7 to $15.



Draft and bottled beers from $2.75 to $4.25.



Desserts range from $7.50 to $8.50.



Earles is focused on sourcing ingredients from small, fresh, local and seasonal producers.



GBG began this week serving lunch and dining on the front patio. Hours of operation are 11:30 a.m. to midnight. GBG does not take reservations.



"We always knew we wanted to open back up, and now we have done it," said a happy Earles.